Columbia Fire District wants to grow

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat

Representatives with the Columbia Fire Protection District and a county agency that approves special district boundaries said last week that they expect a new proposal to come forth for annexing land into the district.

A formal proposal has not yet been submitted to the Local Agency Formation Commission. However, Ryan Delgado, a captain with the Columbia district, said the district hopes to present a plan to the agency soon.

The district covers one square-mile that includes Columbia Elementary School and Columbia State Park. Delgado said the district aimsto add areas where the department now responds, including Highway 49 at Springfield Road and as far as Big Hill or Covington Road in Columbia.

He said the department's $75,000 budget doesn't cover the services they offer.

"We are moving forward in the process right now," he said. "We're making sure our application is filled out to all the specifications."

According to the Tuolumne County Community Resources Agency, which offers staff support to LAFCO, the district board will have to approve a proposal before it is submitted. Once the fire district submits an application and the assessor determines the value of the land, district property owners will receive notification of the possible move.

After receiving public comment, the commission will decide whether to approve the expansion - a process that will likely take a couple months, according to the CRA.

The Columbia Fire District has been eyeing ways to raise additional revenues for years. District voters approved a parcel tax in March 2011, after rejecting a tax the previous June.

Tuolumne County Administrator Craig Pedro weighed in on a possible expansion Tuesday in front of the Board of Supervisors, saying that adding to the Columbia district would take funds from the county fire department. Pedro said he believes a bigger issue is the fact that the state park - which includes historic buildings in a semi-urban setting - is inside the district but not taxable property.

"The biggest chunk of property (in the district) belongs to the park," Pedro said.

The Union Democrat
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